FlixChatter Origins Project

Happy Friday, everyone!
One of my blog friends Marshall from Marshall and the Movies has recently asked me to be a part of his awesome blog event dubbed “The Origins Project” or how I’d like to call it The Blog Begins :) It’s been great to read about how my fellow bloggers got started and the ups and down of being a blogger, so check out the other entries over at his own terrific movie blog. Thanks for letting me participate, Marshall!

Today’s entry into “The Origins Project” comes from Ruth of “FlixChatter,”who writes one of the classiest blogs out there.  Some complain about WordPress’ boring themes, but I just get this professional vibe from her site design.  Looks aren’t everything, though.  Her content is great too.
  • What movie began your love affair with cinema?
    I’d like to think that movies is in my blood, as my late dad was a screenwriter/director back in the 60s and early 70s in my home country Indonesia. But the credit really should go to my late mom who took me to see Superman when I was a wee girl and I just fell in love with it. She was a movie buff also who would bring home various VHS movies from her vacation abroad, which fueled my early love for cinema.

  • When did you start blogging?
    June 9th, 2009.

  • Why did you start blogging?
    I got an assignment to design a blog for my client, which finally compelled me start my own movie blog, something I’ve wanted to do for a while. I actually started jotting down the name I wanted for my blog (luckily FlixChatter was still available at the time!) and what I want to put in it. Seems like I had always been emailing people about all sorts of flicks news/commentary so a blog is the perfect venue to combine my passion for writing and the movies.
    ….
  • What has kept you going?
    Well for one, I’ve come to really enjoy blogging. But the biggest motivator to me is getting responses from readers and fellow bloggers alike. My eyes light up every time I see a comment on my post, not much else perks up a blogger’s day quite like it :)
  • Has there been a particular person (or people) that has helped you along the way?
    I have to say my friends at work Becky (Prairiegirl) and Mike B. were my supporters from the get go, they had bookmarked my blog when I was still struggling to get barely 50 hits a day. I’ve also learned a ton from fellow movie bloggers who encouraged as well as challenge me to be better every day. My husband’s been a great supporter also, for putting up with the seemingly endless time I spend in front of my laptop! :)
  • What’s the best part of being a blogger? The worst?
    Best part? Being a part of a community of people who share a similar passion and making friends along the way. It’s also a great feeling when someone tells you they like a movie you recommend, or seeing your post get quoted or referenced by other sites, it may seem trivial to some, but it’s huge for a wee blogger like me. The worst? Well, the time it consumed! I wish I were a better writer that I could write things, especially reviews, in half the time! Oh, and when you spend so much time writing a post and nobody comments on it :(
  • Has blogging increased or diminished your passion for movies?
    Definitely increased. The more I write about them, the more I appreciate it more as an art form rather than simply a piece of entertainment. For sure, it has broaden my movie ‘horizon’ if you will, as I learn about certain genres that weren’t on my radar. Of course, there are still movies I simply refuse to watch out of principle, and nothing would ever get me to enjoy horror/slasher flicks.
  • What’s your proudest moment as a blogger?
    Seeing my post(s) referenced (or linked to) by other blogs or professional sites are always thrilling, not to mention being asked to participate on a blog event (so thank you Marshall!).

    IMDb has been kind to me for featuring several of my posts on the HitList section, especially the few times when I hadn’t submitted my posts via the HitList forum. The first time it happened I jumped up and down in my cube and ran over to Mike and Becky to share the good news, I could hardly contain my giddy excitement :) It’s awesome to get recognition from a site that I visit every day, and seeing my blog stat shoots up never fails to add an extra spring in my step.
  • What advice would you give to someone looking to follow their passion?  To someone starting a blog of their own?
    Go for it! It’ll make your life all the richer and more fulfilling because of it. Blogging has certainly make me happier as I get to channel my creativity and passion, and gives me something to look forward to every day. If you’re inclined to start your own blog, write what you love and write from the heart. Be patient when things don’t take off right away, I didn’t let lack of hits/comments stop me from writing the first few months. Eventually people will find you and you’ll watch your blog grow in no time. Oh, and for any blog, content is KING, that’s what keeps me coming back to other blogs!
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Poster of the Week: Never Let Me Go

Upon seeing this lovely poster, I just might make a weekly Poster Feature post from now on. There is always a new being released every day and it’s fun to look at them. But every once in a while, a poster catches your breath away, not so much for how it looks—though it’s indeed gorgeous–but for the evocative tone it sets. Where a lot of posters tend to want to jam everything in, not to mention the floating head syndrome that bug the heck out of me, the simplicity of this poster is just striking. It feels blissful and innocent, yet somehow you know there is more to it than meets the eye. The fact that the lower part of the word GO is cut off is like a little clue.

Per Wikipedia, Never Let Me Go is based on a novel by Japanese-born British author Kazuo Ishiguro. It was shortlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize (an award Ishiguro had previously won in 1989 for The Remains of the Day), and was named best novel of 2005 by TIME magazine.

The movie stars Carey Mulligan (An Education), Andrew Garfield (the young Brit who’s recently cast as Spiderman), and Keira Knightley, as Kathy, Tommy and Ruth, respectively. The three of them live in a world and a time that feel familiar to us, but are not quite like anything we know. They spend their childhood at Hailsham, a seemingly idyllic English boarding school. When they leave the shelter of the school and the terrible truth of their fate is revealed to them, they must also confront the deep feelings of love, jealousy and betrayal that threaten to pull them apart. – description per Filmofilia.

Its trailer’s just been released also, I’ll post that sometime later today here it is below:

I said above that ‘…there’s more than meets the eye’ in the poster, well, the trailer definitely alludes to the fact that this isn’t an ordinary school, the kids aren’t who you think they are, basically, this movie isn’t a typical coming-of-age story at all. Those who’ve read the book or familiar with the story already knew this, but I absolutely had no idea what it was really about until I read Wikipedia and some reviews about the book. Whoa, suffice to say I was flabbergasted. Kudos to Ishiguro and the filmmaker in keeping it so enigmatic and ever so subtle. I guess I should’ve guessed when it’s billed as a sci-fi novel, but nope, didn’t see that one coming.

Yeah, I’m definitely intrigued.

Conspicuous Trailer of the Week: Soul Kitchen

I caught a glimpse of Gordon Ramsay’s cooking reality show Master Chef and it inspired me to pick this movie for my weekly trailer post. Soul Kitchen is a German independent ensemble comedy from German-Turkish director Faith Akin.

Here’s a brief description from TIFFreviews.com: From the director of Head-on comes the story of a young restaurant owner Zinos is down on his luck. His girlfriend Nadine has moved to Shanghai, his Soul Kitchen customers are boycotting the new gourmet chef, and he’s having back trouble. Things start looking up when the hip crowd embraces his revamped culinary concept, but that doesn’t mend Zinos’ broken heart. He decides to fly to China for Nadine, leaving the restaurant in the hands of his unreliable ex-con brother Illias.

At the top of the poster, sits the John Lennon quote “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans” in German, and as you can see in the trailer below, it looks like an engaging urban comedy full of quirky people and life’s little eccentricities.

The 37-year-old Akin actually won Special Jury Prize at the Venice Festival last September, and the movie was nominated for the Golden Lion Award. The Huffington Post has much great things to say about the film, “…Soul Kitchen is not a standard Hollywood-type romantic comedy; the story is much grittier, the passions are earthier, and the people are much rougher around the edges.” Kind of what you expect from most foreign films. The reviewer even compared Akin to Hitchcock in terms of how he uses his camera to frame a scene. I’m not familiar with any of the actors, I only notice this guy Moritz Bleibtreu from Munich and Run Lola Run, if you haven’t seen the latter, I highly recommend the excellent thriller.

Soul Kitchen will be screened at this year’s Toronto Film Festival in mid September, but the movie should be available on dvd by the end of August. Speaking of TIFF, the lineup has just been announced recently, so my top-picks post like the one I did last year is forthcoming.

What do you think folks? Any thoughts about this movie?

Happy Birthday Sandra Bullock!

Yesterday Sandra Bullock turned 46, so happy belated birthday, Sandy!

This has been quite a year for the affable actress, winning an Oscar and losing a marriage in the same year, which is tough enough in and of itself even without a heinous scandal associated with it. Yet, the gorgeous actress continues to carry herself with grace and class through it all. I’ve always liked Sandra, even if I don’t always like her movies, and that’s because in a town where narcissism run amok, she still comes across as a genuinely nice and humble human being

The night before she won her Best Actress Oscar on March 7th, she actually showed up at the Razzie to accept not one, but two Raspberry trophies she ‘earned’ for both Worst Actress and Worst On-Screen Couple for All About Steve. You’ve probably seen the video at the Razzie award where she hauled a wheeled wagon full of the chastised All About Steve dvds and delivered a speech equally gracious as the one she delivered for the real honor! You’ve got to hand it to her for that self-deprecating sense of humor and her ability to laugh at herself.

As my tribute to the lovely actress, here five of my favorite Sandra Bullock movies (in order of release):

  • Speed (1994)
    This is one of the movies Bullock and Keanu Reeves will be remembered for. I love this action flick when it first came out, it was so much fun to watch and both of the leads have a nice chemistry together as they flirt their way through the terrorist scheme of the late Dennis Hopper. I did swoon over Reeves in his hunkiest role, but Sandra is so darn likable as the ordinary hero Annie, it’s no surprise this movie made her a star.
  • The Net (1995)
    This movie is so dated now, and it’s asking a bit much to have us believe that someone as pretty as Bullock is a reclusive geek who has no friends or boyfriend. But if you can just get past that absurd notion, the movie itself is quite enjoyable. Of course having a baddie in the form of the tall, dark & handsome Brit Jeremy Northam can’t hurt :) Sure this movie doesn’t hold up well now, but Bullock’s sincere performance and non-stop action sequences kept me in suspense.
  • While You Are Sleeping
    I’m not a huge rom-com fan, but this one still gets me every time it came on TV. The movie truly hinges on Sandra’s likability factor, but it was so easy to root for her character, even if we don’t agree with everything she does. A train fare collector who’s a hopeless romantic, she has a massive crush on a dashing commuter, and pretends to be his fiance when he was knocked unconscious. With a premise like this, you need a leading actress who can sell it. Sandra definitely passes with flying colors. Heck, she’s able to make even Bill Pullman seems so irresistible! :)
  • The Proposal (2009)
    Another rom-com, I know. But this one actually comes pretty highly recommended that I was curious enough to check it out. One thing I notice is Sandra definitely ages well, this is over a decade after Speed and she still maintain that youthful radiance and lithe figure. The movie also benefits from Ryan Reynolds’ casting, an actor equally affable and funny, and though I don’t quite buy the chemistry between the two, it’s still fun to watch the two banter with each other, not to mention the hilarious scenes between her and Betty White!
  • The Blind Side (2009)
    This is one that I’d get flak for even including in my list. Yeah, I know a lot of people are still enraged over her winning Best Actress Oscar, but it’s a given that moviegoers disagree with what the Academy picks. I for one thinks it’s well-deserved, it might not be the best performance of the year, but it was Bullock’s strongest and most nuanced role yet. As I said in my review, the movie works thanks largely to Sandra Bullock’s assertive but guarded performance, and again she comes across very genial and relatable.

Well folks, what are your favorite Sandra Bullock movie(s)?

Weekend Roundup: Flugtag, Ridley Scott’s Filmmaking Contest, Pillars of the Earth Debut

Happy Monday, everyone! Hope y’all had a smashing weekend. Mine ended up being quite hectic that I didn’t get to see The Prestige that I rented again. As I said in my Top Five Nolan flicks post, I’m curious to see if I understand it better the second time around.

  • I had the pleasure of attending the Red Bull Flugtag event on Saturday, a first for the Twin Cities. What’s Flugtag? Well, it means “flying day” in German, but the Red Bull Flugtag is a competition that challenges teams of everyday people to build homemade, human-powered flying machines and pilot them off a 30-foot high deck in hopes of achieving flight! Well, team Major Trouble and the Dirty Dixies set a world record, as they flew 207 feet, beating the previous record of 195! Woot woot! You can watch the awesome team soared to victory here. Too bad we missed seeing this one as we were stuff in traffic and trying to find parking! But still it was fun to enjoy a day in the sun along with a bazillion people.
  • My friend and blog contributor Ted Saydalavong (who recently gave us Batman Begins & Superman Returns Vision-to-Film posts, the latter happens to be featured on IMDb today!) tipped me a short while ago about this Philips Cinema collaboration with Ridley Scott, called the Tell It Your Way contest. It’s based on the Philips company’s campaign “There are millions of ways to tell a story. There’s only one way to watch one.” What each contestant has to do is create a short film to go along with Philips’ Parallel Lines short films series available on their YouTube Channel. Five very different short films, five different genres, five different directors, but one unifying dialogue. So the challenge is to come up with your own 3-minute version, no matter what storyline, but using the same 6-lines of dialogue provided (i.e. It’s a Unicorn, Never seen one up close before).
    Ted’s one of the aspiring filmmaker hopefuls who’s vying to win the Grand Prize which includes a week’s worth of work experience at Ridley Scott Associates (RSA) in one of their worldwide offices (all expenses paid), as well as one of these magnificent Philips Cinema 21:9 HDTVs. “I’ve decided to enter into this film competition because I wanted to showcase my movie directing abilities, I’m a film fanatic and wanted to tell a good story in 3 minutes. Also, Ridley Scott is one of the judges on this competition and I hope he likes what I created and if I win I get to meet him in person. Scott is one of my favorite film directors, he has such a great visual on all of his films, bad and good ones,” Ted said, “I thought this competition is a great challenge to amateur filmmakers out there, you have lines of dialog to follow but you can tell it in anyway you wish. As a filmmaker wanna be, this is a great opportunity to showcase my talents and I think my team accomplished that with our film.”

    “It’s the competition to find the next Ridley Scott,” says Fame Magazine UK, where three rounds of judging will be held including public voting via YouTube. Ted told me Carl Erik Rinsch’s The Gift, about a futuristic robot butler who flees the police, is his favorite, and I can see why. It’s a gorgeously-shot and meticulously crafted sci-fi short, see it for yourself below:

    It is so impressive in fact, that Warner Bros. and Fox were apparently got into a bidding war in their quest to turn this into a feature film (per HeatVision blog). Though well-known in the commercial world, Risch’s name will soon be known to moviegoers, too, as he’s reportedly working on Keanu Reeves’ samurai film 47 Ronin, and possibly helming the remake of the 1976 Logan’s Run sci-fi adventure-drama next.

    Back to the contest, finalists will be judged on criteria including creative storytelling, use of dialogue, and technical achievement.This sounds like a super fierce competition, but of course with a prize like that, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime! So best of luck to you, Ted!
  • Speaking of sir Ridley, I wish I could watch his epic miniseries Pillars of the Earth, produced by his Scott Free production company. As I said in my previous post on it, the six-part, eight-hour miniseries is based on an International best-seller novel by Ken Follett, which tells a story about building a cathedral set against a backdrop of war, religious strife and power struggles in the Middle Ages (you watch the trailer here).

    Rufus Sewell as Tom Builder

    Starz premiered the show over the weekend and it generated pretty good reviews according to MetaCritic. Prairiegirl and my favorite Brit Rufus Sewell was often praised for his performance as Tom Builder, who apparently lives up to his name as a master builder for this massive Cathedral project. This one particular review even said Sewell pretty much stole the show. Well, I don’t expect anything less from the stunningly-handsome and talented actor! The show’s also got a stellar cast that include Ian McShane, Donald Shuterland, Rufus Sewell, Matthew Macfayden, Tony Curran and Hayley Attwell.

    Those who have cable, the premiere last Friday will be followed by one-hour segments until the two-hour conclusion on August 27. I’ll be sure to rent this once they’re available on dvd and write my review of it then.

Upcoming Flix Spotlight » TRON: Legacy

I wish I could be in San Diego this week, ComicCon sounds like a lot of fun, and it’s increasingly becoming as much for movie lovers as comic book fans. One of the most buzzed about upcoming movie this year is Disney’s Tron: Legacy. I’ve become increasingly intrigued by this movie, and the new trailer just shot my excitement up through the roof. Check it out:

As I said in my previous post, this is the sequel to the 1982 sci-fi film Tron, starring a much younger Jeff Bridges. Instead of a dream world a la Inception, this time much of the movie takes place in a digital world created by Bridges character Kevin Flynn, a former premier video-game developer. Flynn’s been missing for 25 years and his estranged son is pulled into the virtual game world as he searches for him, a mesmerizing cyber universe full of neon lights and shiny objects! LOVE that Lightcycle, forget Batpod, I want one of those! According to the Collider, this movie’s broken a record for being present at the conference three years in a row! But this year’s the first time Con-goers are shown actual footage from the film (the previous two years they were presented with only the 2D and 3D test footage, probably to test people’s interest?). The cast and crew were present in the film’s panel Q&A session, including Joseph Kosinski, producer Sean Bailey, TRON creator Steven Lisberger, and stars Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen, and the dude himself, Jeff Bridges! I’ve never heard of Kosinski before, but according to this FastCompany article, sounds like he knows what he’s doing despite his lack of filmmaking experience. He apparently has a master in architecture design from Columbia and also founded a Web-design firm where he created short-films made entirely on the computer.

Kosinski directing his cast on set

As for casting, Bridges actually plays the same role twice, well, kind of. When I saw the trailer, there’s a guy who bears an uncanny resemblance to him but looks half his age of 61, and I wondered who the actor is. Well, guess what, Matt Goldberg at Collider is saying that character is actually CGI, “…I don’t want to jump the gun, but from what I saw today, it looks like they’ve cracked the technology to de-age actors digitally.” THR HeatVision also mentioned about the ‘de-aging’ technology, here’s what Bridges himself thought about it: “One of the things that always bothered me as an actor was when you have to play your self at different ages is that you have an other actor playing you. Now that’s no longer the case. You can play yourself at any age. To be in this groundbreaking movie, where it’s done for the first time, is cool.”

I’m not sure the story will be a compelling one, but visually speaking I’m hooked. I was practically ooh-aah-ing as I’m watching this trailer, like a fly mesmerized by bright lights :D Now this is one that’s meant to be seen in 3D come December 17th.

How about you, is this one in your must-see list?

Conspicuous Trailer of the Week: The Debt

Seems like every trailer I’ve posted has Helen Mirren in it, the dame is one versatile actress! But this movie’s actually been on my radar for a while, but then the whole Disney vs. Miramax debacle threatened to send this straight to dvd. So I was tickled pink when I saw the trailer and the release date listed on IMDb is August 11 (US release). The trailer looks pretty intense, and so is the plot:

In 1965, three young Israeli Mossad agents on a secret mission capture and kill a notorious Nazi war criminal. Now, thirty years later, a man claiming to be the Nazi has surfaced in the Ukraine and one of the former agents must go back undercover to seek out the truth. (IMDb plot summary)

This has a Munich vibe to it, the Steven Spielberg movie about the aftermath of what’s called Black September of 1972, when 11 Israeli athletes were murdered at the Munich Olympics. Well, that one starred one of my fave actors from Down Under Eric Bana, and now we’ve got another Aussie Sam Worthington in the lead. We’ll see if he can hold his own against thespians like Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds. As I said in my post yesterday, I’d love to see more of his dramatic side. Getthebigpicture.net thinks this is more of a Helen Mirren vehicle though, she plays Rachel Singer, an ex-Mossad agent in charge of tracking down the Nazi war criminal known as The Surgeon of Birkenau, whom everyone thought was dead but suddenly turned up in Ukraine. Jesper Christensen (Mr. White in Casino Royale) plays the hunted criminal, Jessica Chastain (who’s been doing mostly TV work) plays Mirren’s character’s younger self, while the older character of Worthington is played by Hinds. Huh? I don’t see any resemblance at all between these two, but whatever.

The movie is directed by John Madden (Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown; Shakespeare in Love), with Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn (who penned the script for Kick-Ass) as two of the team of writers. I wonder how complex is the story that it needs five writers? Well at least the trailer keeps it under wraps enough and didn’t reveal way too much.

What do you think folks, would you see this one?

Random assortment of movie musings and news – July Edition

Ok, about 72+ hours after I wrote my Inception review and my mind’s finally able to think about something else! A bunch of us obviously went and saw it this weekend as the blogs are all abuzz with Inception-related posts, and it’s been a trending topic on Twitter for at least four straight days! Christopher Nolan’s gutsy mind-bending thriller seems to have paid off, it’s made over $70 million in the last five days domestically. Though it pales in comparison to The Dark Knight‘s opening take of $158 million, but it’s still impressive considering it’s an original story and it didn’t have the boost from Heath Ledger’s sudden passing.

Anyways, here are just some random stuff I noticed this past week:

  • Apparently teen heartthrob Zac Efron was at the Mall of America a couple of nights ago. The local radio tipped me off and I got a chuckle out of the reporter who was covering the event as she had to bring several earplugs! He’s promoting his new tearjerker drama Charlie St. Cloud. Man, I’m glad I wasn’t there that day (my office is relatively close to it so sometimes I stopped by after work), I mean check out this massive crowd! The reporter said there could easily be 10,000 people there. That’s just mind-boggling to me, ok so we MN folks don’t get to see Hollywood celebs very often but still! Anyhoo, I personally think the dude is practically a living breathing personification of a Ken doll, but I’m obviously not his target market. To be fair though, Zac just might be a decent actor (he earned some raves in Me & Orson Wells a couple of years back), though he probably ain’t going to shed his matinee idol image with his new flick. And apparently the marketing department was too busy framing Zac’s face just so in the poster they didn’t bother thinking about the slogan. LIFE IS FOR LIVING? Seriously, why bother!
  • On a related note, according to FirstShowing, Efron reportedly wished he had been cast in Zack Snyder’s upcoming fantasy thriller Sucker Punch. Not sure if the reason is because his main squeeze Vanessa Hudgens is in it, or he just likes Snyder’s work. With a tagline “Alice in Wonderland with machine guns,” it’s bound to appeal to most Comic-Con attendees, and even more so after they see this provocative first official photo. Snyder seems to have had a lot of luck at the San Diego convention, his last two flicks (300, Watchmen) got a big boost from it, especially the first. I thought that this is another graphic novel adaptation, but it’s actually Snyder’s own idea that was converted into a screenplay, which marks his first project that isn’t based on another person’s work. The plot per IMDb: A young girl is institutionalized by her wicked stepfather. Retreating to an alternative reality as a coping strategy, she envisions a plan which will help her escape from the facility.
  • Read this one briefly on my daily IMDb fix, and I felt compelled to comment on it. It appears that Katherine Heigl is hellbent on further derailing her career. After the disastrous The Ugly Truth and the equally dismal and utterly pointless Killers, she’s now teaming up with Andy Tennant for her new movie, the guy who brought us The Bounty Hunter (hence my open letter to Gerry Butler, who’s as guilty as Heigl in having any part at all in TUT). Oh well, who cares, I won’t be seeing it anyway.
  • What I am excited for is this upcoming Israeli-themed thriller The Debt. I first heard about it last year but then I was a bit worried this might end up becoming a straight-to-dvd flick when Disney closed down Miramax. Well, this week Entertainment Weekly‘s released the first still of Sam Worthington as a Mossad agent, and we’ve got a release date of December 29, 2010. Yay! Worthington’s surrounded by an excellent cast of Helen Mirren (every flick with her in it gets my attention lately), Tom Wilkinson, Ciaran Hinds, Jessica Chastain and Marton Csokas.

    The trailer’s also just been released, which I’ll post later today. I’m curious to see how Worthington’s performance pan out here. So far I haven’t been overly impressed with his acting, but then again his flicks has been more about the special effects (Avatar, Clash of the Titans) than anything else. Though he showed something promising in Terminator Salvation, I really want to see his dramatic side when he isn’t hidden under all that blue makeup and cat-like eyes. Acting is much about expression and an actor ought to have more than two or three ‘look’ to choose from. Sounds like he’s adopting an Israeli accent too, so we’ll see if he does that better than his American one :)
  • There were a bunch of trailers shown in front of Inception, it went on and on endlessly and the movie itself is already 2.5 hours long! Well, one of them that I liked was the Tron: Legacy trailer, which have been making a splash in Comic Con for the past couple of years. Y’know, this movie wasn’t really on my radar until my husband enthused about it, saying how much he liked the original (I never saw it) and proceeded to show me the original trailer. Well, now I’m intrigued, apparently Jeff Bridges starred in the original called Tron in 1982 and is now back for the sequel.

    From its IMDb page, the summary goes like this: Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), the tech-savvy 27-year-old son of Kevin Flynn (Bridges), looks into his father’s disappearance and finds himself pulled into the same world of fierce programs and gladiatorial games where his father has been living for 25 years. Along with Kevin’s loyal confidant, father and son embark on a life-and-death journey across a visually-stunning cyber universe that has become far more advanced and exceedingly dangerous. I’ve never heard of Hedlund before, but apparently he’s from Roseau, Minnesota! In any case, I’m curious to see this now, and Rockerdad is going to lend me the Tron dvd so I can see how outdated it is now and how far we’ve come in CGI :)

Well anyways, happy Wednesday folks. Any thoughts about any of this topic, please chime in below.

From Vision to Film: Superman Returns

TedSaydalavongBanner

Welcome to the second edition of FlixChatter’s From-Vision-t0-Film series. Have you ever seen a film and then wonder what would happen if they were done differently? Well, in Hollywood, about 70% of films that they produced had different visions initially.

This post is courtesy of special guest blogger Ted Saydalavong, a movie trivia aficionado who shares my affinity for superhero movies. If you haven’t read Ted’s first post on Batman Begins, you can check it out here. Now, here’s an in-depth look of how Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns finally took flight:

Way back the mid-90s Warner Bros. wanted to reboot their Superman franchise, so they decide to hire Kevin Smith (hot off his first film Clerks) to write a script for the new version of The Man of Steel. Smith, a self-proclaim super comic book super geek, was hired to write a screenplay based on The Death of Superman comic book series where Superman was killed and came back. The screenplay was titled Superman Lives. After he finished script, he showed it to the studio executives and they loved it. But the producer of the film, Jon Peters, hasn’t read it yet. Around this time, Peters was still a powerful producer, he made a lot of money for Warner Bros. He was the producer of Tim Burton’s Batman, so he has the final say if the new Superman film is a go or not.

So Smith met with Peters and Peters said he loved the script, but he wanted to add a sidekick for the villain Brainiac and that the story must include a giant robot spider for no good reason what so ever. (The giant robot spider did appear in a film that Peters produced, the awful Wild Wild West.) So anyways, Smith said he’ll re-write the script to include a sidekick and giant spider robot. Now this is where things got complicated, Peters brought on Tim Burton to the project. Burton like Smith’s script but decided he wanted to change a few things. He told Peters that there won’t be a sidekick or a giant robot spider, since Burton is a big shot, Peters didn’t object. By now Kevin Smith was practically kicked to the curb and he was out of the project. He begged the studio to let him meet with Burton so he can explain how he had envisioned the new Superman, but Burton just refused to meet with him and he already brought in his own writers. If you want to listen Kevin Smith talk about his involvement with this project, see it below, it’s quite funny:

So now with Burton on board, everyone is happy since he already made two very successful Batman films. The script has been approved by the studio, Burton’s next task was to cast the new Man of Steel and his choice was quite surprising. Burton’s one and only choice for the new Superman was Nicholas Cage. Remember, this was a time when Cage was on top of the world – he recently won an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas and his three big action films The Rock, Con Air and Face/Off made quite a bit of cash at the box office. He confirmed that he was going to be the new Superman on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno while promoting Face/Off. He even told Jay that he won’t be wearing a cape in the new version of Superman.

A Japanese Tim Burton fan site actually leaked a test photo of the actor in the red and blue suit

Also, if you do some hard searching online, you might find a poster of Superman Reborn, Warner had scheduled the film to be release on June of 1998 to celebrate the studio’s 75th anniversary. I remember seeing the poster in movie theaters in the summer of 1997; the poster has a big red S and the word Reborn Next Summer on it. The rest of cast would have included Cameron Diaz as Lois Lane, Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor (rumor has it that Burton asked Jack Nicholson to play Lex but Jack didn’t want to play another big name villain since he already played the Joker) and Chris Rock as Jimmy Olsen.

With casting in place, Burton and company was about to start principal photography, but the studio executives had some concerns about the budget. They had green-lit the project for $100 mil, however, in the script the first big action sequence in the film will cost at least $30 mil to shoot. So they asked Burton and his writers to re-write the script and tone down some of the big action set pieces to save some money. By then the film couldn’t make the June of 98 release date because they had to re-write the script, so the studio pushed the date back to summer of 1999. The new script was handed in to the studio, and they still thought the budget would get out of control. Again they asked Burton to restructure the script, so now the release date got pushed again to Christmas of 1999. Well, in the fall of 1998, Warner Bros. then announced that they’ve decided to shut down the production of the new Superman film because of budget concerns. Burton had already left the project a few months prior so he can start working on Sleepy Hollow. In an interview back in 2006 around the time Superman Returns came out, Burton said he’d already made a new Superman film but he never got to shoot it. I think he spent like close to two years trying to get his version of Superman off the ground but couldn’t.

Supes possible helmers: Tim Burton, Kevin Smith, Wolfgang Petersen, Michael Bay, McG and Brett Ratner

Director Bryan Singer on the set of Superman Returns with Brandon Routh

Director Bryan Singer on the set of Superman Returns with Brandon Routh

In early 2000s, Warner decided to get the project back on the ground because comic book-based films have been making money left and right, Spiderman and X-Men films were raking in a lot of cash for other movie studios. The list of directors who came on board to try and tackle the project were Michael Bay, McG, Wolfgan Petersen and Brett Ratner. They even brought in J.J. Abrams to re-write to script, he basically threw out Kevin Smith and Tim Burton’s script and wrote his own version. In fact, the studio liked it so much that wanted to shoot his version with Brett Ratner as the director. Abrams’ version was basically another re-telling the origin of Superman. Ratner even hired Anothony Hopkins to play Supe’s father.

The reason why Abrams version never happened was that Ratner and the studio couldn’t agree on who should play the new man of steel. Rumor has it that Ratner wanted Josh Harnett while the studio wanted Brenda Fraser. Of course Ratner eventually left the project and then he got the gig to direct X-Men 3. This is when Singer pitched his version and the rest is history.

P.S. An interesting swap indeed, given that Bryan Singer’s the one who brought us X-Men, thereby launching the whole superhero franchise in Hollywood that continues until today.

TedS_post


Well, what are your thoughts on the Superman Returns story?

FlixChatter Review: Inception

It’s been more than twelve hours since the movie ended, yet I’m still mulling it over, spewing quotes from the movie, and can’t stop thinking about it. Nolan’s films infiltrate the minds, kind of like when you just wake up from a vivid dream and still feel trapped between the dream world and reality.

Dreams feel real while we’re in them. It’s only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange. – Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio)

I don’t know about you, but I dream often and they’re sometimes quite vivid. No matter how weird and surreal the are, one common thing they share is that my dreams always contain a mishmash of what’s real and what’s not, sometimes they even involve people/things from long ago that I thought I had forgotten, meshed together with those in my imagination. When I woke up, often abruptly, my main is in a state of confusion, but yet I wish I hadn’t been awaken. It’s discombobulating yes, frustrating at times as you can’t keep your finger on it, but dreams tend to be fascinating in a strange way. The same can be said about this movie.

The first fifteen minutes it was challenging to discern. It opens with a figure washed ashore on a beach, waves crashing onto him, and the story immediately unfolds in such an enigmatic way. Characters are vaguely defined as neither good or bad, but one thing we do know even from the trailer, DiCaprio’s Cobb is a thief. He’s not just any thief however, he isn’t after material things, but something far more priceless: an idea, someone’s deepest secret. But this time, his supposedly final job, he’s been hired by wealthy tycoon Saito (Ken Watanabe) to do the opposite of he usually does. Instead of extracting an idea, his task is to plant one into his subject’s subconscious mind, which happens to be Saito’s business rival. As if stealing from people’s dreams isn’t impossible enough, this crazy mission is bound to be ultra complicated. Well, just you wait.

The thief gets his game on

I just saw Nolan’s first feature film Following just two days prior, so the details are still quite clear in my head. It’s quite obvious that Chris Nolan is obsessed with how the mind works and psychological manipulation. His first and latest film both deal with the concept of theft and intrusion, even the lead character share the same name: Cobb. But of course Inception is not so much a sibling of Following but its distant, ultra wealthy relative in the way of scope, scale and aspiration. There have been expensive blockbusters released this year, so in terms of production, its $170 million budget is by no means groundbreaking. What separates this from the pack is its sheer ambition and up-to-there creativity. To quote TOTAL FILM in it’s Summer issue: “…Inception’s USP is all about WTF originality.” I read one tweet on Friday that pretty much summed it up my experience: “Thanks Mr. Nolan. Now we only have 11% brain power left in us…” or something along that line. Unlike most popcorn blockbusters, you can’t switch off even one tiny part of your brain going into this movie, and even then you’ll still be perplexed, bewildered and frustrated by what’s taking place on screen.

To go into details of the story would be a disservice to those who haven’t seen it, besides, words escape me in trying to find ways to describe it. Many of Nolan’s movies usually demand repeated viewings to fully grasp the story, and this one is no exception. It’s got such a complex and multi-layered dream-within-a-dream concept, with plots and twists piling up on top of each other that we’re bound to miss some key information the first time around. I wish I could rewind a couple of scenes and turn on the caption on, especially when Ken Watanabe is conversing with DiCaprio, which are some of the vital scenes in the movie. But the thrill is in trying to piece together this puzzle Nolan’s thrusts upon us (my husband quipped that Nolan must be into puzzle games and perhaps chess when he was growing up), and there are also some spellbinding visual effects to enjoy throughout. The CGI is quite seamless, which is a feat in and of itself, but the beauty is that when we’re seeing it, we don’t get stuck at the technicality of it. The special effects enhance the story instead of distract us from the movie.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you’d have seen a glimpse of the scene where the city of Paris is folding up geometrically. Well, it looks so much cooler in the movie, and we the audience, as well as DiCaprio and Ellen Page’s character marvel together seeing the people who are still walking about and cars driving normally in a gravity-defying manner. Then there is the surreal sudden appearance of a freight train in the middle of a downtown street and a hotel hallway that spins like a hamster wheel in a Matrix-like action sequence. Those are just a few visual treats that go along with the cerebral ones.

DiCaprio & Cotillard as husband & wife

It’s also exciting for me to see the influences that shape Nolan’s body of work. He said to Empire magazine that “[Inception] is absolutely my Bond movie… I grew up just loving them and they’re a huge influence on me.” No wonder, I chuckle during the sequence in the snowy mountainous region of Calgary, as it bear a striking resemblance to the ski shootout in For Your Eyes Only, among others. Interestingly enough, Nolan’s favorite Bond movie is On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (which is the least successful Bond movie with George Lazenby), as Nolan puts it, “…it’s by far the most emotional.” Similarly with Inception, amidst all the high-level concept, high-tech gadgetry and action-packed sequences, at the heart of the movie is a love story between Cobb and his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard).

Part of Leo's team: Tom Hardy & Joseph Gordon-Levitt

So, with all the anticipation that went on for almost a year, does it live up to my expectation? One short answer: YES. Albeit being quite mystified for a good portion of the movie, it was exhilarating and fun, a thrill ride for the eyes and the mind. The acting is also excellent throughout, and not just by DiCaprio alone, who’s definitely the ‘face’ of the movie. Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Watanabe, Cotillard, Tom Hardy, Tom Berenger and Sir Michael Caine are wonderful in their respective roles. I particularly enjoy Hardy (who I last saw in Rocknrolla) who steal scenes every moment he’s in with his charming presence and comic relief. I would love to see more of this guy in the leading role.

Well, on that note, let me end with his line from the movie, “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling,” Hardy’s character Eames said just before he pulled out a giant firearm next to a lesser-equipped Gordon-Levitt’s Arthur (you can see the exact clip here, thanks to Chele Belle’s comment). Hmmm, that’s got to be the motto Christopher Nolan lives by.